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How to deal with Toxic Relationships

Updated on July 23, 2012

The destructiveness of Toxic Relationships

Toxic relationships have a way of defiling and destroying everyone and everything they come in contact with.
Toxic relationships have a way of defiling and destroying everyone and everything they come in contact with.

Toxic Relationships

Your relationships, like your diet and surroundings impact your health. The people you surround yourself can make your feel better or worse. They can energize you for make you feel like your life is being sucked out of you. Those relationships can improve your longevity or they can shorten it. It does little good to eat right and exercise when you continue being surrounded by those who poison your life. Although you can see and smell a toxic waste dump, when it comes to relationships, you may not always see the danger of toxic relationship. Even when you know that the relationship is toxic, you may be forced to be in a relationship with them.

Types of Toxic Relationships

Some toxic people and relationships are forced upon you. These may be in-laws or family members that marry someone who is toxic. You may also have to live with a toxic neighbor or work for a toxic boss. Everyday, we often face relationships that we are forced into. In such relationships, choices are made for you. It seems that the only choice you have concerns what you are going to do about it.

There are also some toxic relationships that you are being held emotional prisoner in. Whether with a parent, spouse, sibling or step-parent, there are some relationships where your emotional or blood bonds tie you to the toxic relationship. Being trapped in such relationships has a way of increasing the toxicity of the relationship. Helplessness has a way of making any relationship more painful. When you know it is toxic and can not escape it, the pain is intensified. When the relationship is toxic and you are numb to the toxicity of it, your situation is like that of a paralyzed target of a venomous snake. It is not by accident that many toxic persons are often referred to as ‘snakes’ or described with words often associated with snakes such as ‘sidewinder’, ‘low life’, cold-blooded or sneaky.

There are some signs indicating that your relationship is toxic. First there is the low energy level. When the relationship leaves you feeling drained, filled with negativity, or used there is some toxicity. Another sign is when you find your mind being filled with negative thoughts or you feeling unwanted emotions or having unwanted thoughts when you are around them. If you have intense feelings of wanting to choke them, or have intense gagging sensations when you have to spend time with them, there is some toxicity in the relationship. If you feel like you need a bath after spending time with an unwanted person, there is some toxicity in the relationship. If you have to go on an eating binge after being with them, this may be your body’s way of trying to absorb the toxic effects. With physical toxins, you try to expel or remove the toxin. In a similar manner, your body may experience sensations that you need to expel, neutralize or remove the toxin that you experienced with that person.

Since each relationship we are in forms new connections in your brain, the toxic relationship is programming your brain to accept more people like them. It sets you up for future toxic relationships. The toxic relationships often weaken or disable your resistance to other toxic relationships. You may have seen this effect if you find yourself going from one bad relationship to another. The root problem could go back to the initial toxic relationship and how that relationship changed you in a way that made you vulnerable to similar toxic relationships. If you feel like you are stuck in a negative pattern of relationships, this is often the case. When the toxic people are users, they often bring in other users into your life. The combined attack by these toxic users may leave you feeling like you are the victim of a zombie onslaught.

The Effects of Toxic Relationships and How to Deal With Them

Toxic relationships are not just something in your head. Their toxic effects impact your body. These impacts include changes in blood pressure, increased stomach acid, reduced sleep, weakening of the immune system, increase in frequency of tension headaches, outbreak of skin disorders, and changes in eating habits. When there are disturbances in these areas of your functioning, it often leads to a chain effect of other symptoms developing as well. Toxic relationships are not all in your head. They impact your health and well being. The longer you stay in the toxic relationship, the more intense the symptoms you experience will be. If the relationships are temporary, the symptoms will also be temporary. When you have spent a great deal of time in a toxic relationship, the effects can be disabling.

The intensity of the effects of a toxic relationship often depends on two factors. These two factors are the ‘degree of closeness’ and the ‘time spent’ with the toxic person. The degree of closeness of the relationship can impact the amount of toxicity. The degree of closeness can also be termed as ‘the degree of relatedness’. This means that the impact of a toxic parent or spouse will be greater than that of a toxic friend or boss. The other factor is that of the time spent in close proximity to the toxic person. The more time you spend with the person that you have a toxic relationship with, the more intense the symptoms will be. When you have a close degree of relationship with the person and have to spend time with them, you are hit with a double whammy.

When it comes to dealing with toxic relationships, there are several strategies.

  1. Set up clear and consistent boundaries to shield yourself.
  2. Use space, time and distance to protect yourself.
  3. Call for outside help when necessary
  4. Give yourself time to ‘decompress’ after time with the toxic person.
  5. Begin removing toxic people from your life
  6. Develop a support system with positive, encouraging people
  7. Give yourself permission to say ‘NO’ to toxic people
  8. Learn to recognize when your body tells you a relationship is toxic
  9. Realize that toxic people often lie and what they said about you is a lie.
  10. Choose not to live in fear.

When these strategies are put in place, you may still have to deal with an occasional toxic relationship, yet you will be better equipped to deal with them. The more you steer away from such relationships, the more fulfilling your relationships will be.


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    • Sue St. Clair profile image

      Sue St. Clair 5 years ago from I would rather be in Paris


      Thank you. I have put many of them into place out of necessity. The more toxic relationships that have been dealt with, the better life is.

    • tglowv profile image

      Tiffany 5 years ago

      Great suggestions for dealing with toxic relationships.